How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life

In How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life you will learn how and why you are integral to your child’s reading progress, how to work with your child’s teacher, how to overcome reading slumps and book boredom and much more. This book also includes lists of over three hundred “must-have” books you and your child can enjoy.

Excerpt: Early Readers


How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life

Author: Paul Kropp ISBN 0-679-31059-2

Let me repeat: if you’ve been reading regularly with your child, if you talk together regularly over breakfast and dinner, if you model the enjoyment of reading yourself, then your child will most assuredly learn to read. You don’t need to buy special reading programs advertised on TV, or pick up the latest instructional CD-ROM for your computer, or follow any program of instruction at home. Follow the three R’s in this book and your child will become a reader. The problem that I hear again and again from parents is that they are anxious about their child’s reading. She seems to lag behind the other kids at school, or lose interest when we read together at night, or not be reading as well as her older sister. Often these “reading problems” are nothing more than a combination of parental anxiety and unfair comparisons with other kids. We must always remember that children have their own timetables of development. Parents should know, too, that second and third children rarely develop their reading skills as quickly as did the first child. But there is no particular advantage, long term, in a child reading by herself early on-and there is considerable disadvantage for any family where the kids are compared to each other or to the seemingly model child next door. Nonetheless, parents going through this book want to give their child every possible break in developing her reading. Rightly so, just as there are activities in school that do work well in developing reading skills and some that don’t, so there are good and bad activities for building your child’s reading skills and attitudes at home. Let’s start with a list of what you should be doing:

Do continue reading with your child every night. By and large, you’ll be doing the reading aloud, but your child will frequently become more involved at this stage.

Do remember that reading time is playtime: games, songs, stories, and talk are as important as the reading of words on a page.

Do encourage phonemic skills in your reading playtime: songs, rhymes, limericks, clapping, dancing-all offer a reading payoff.

Do encourage word recognition and sounding out wherever you can: words on the fridge, picture dictionary books, sing-along read-along tapes. I’ll come back to all of these ideas, but first let me offer a list of cautions:

Don’t force an organized reading program. Whether it’s a set of flashcards or computer instruction, it’s too early for these mostly phonics programs. And there’s a real danger that pushing such a program, prematurely, will hurt your child’s attitude toward reading.

Don’t turn reading time into a work-study session. You will get more long-term reading advancement from games and stories than from a rigorous study of word segmentation. And there’s no point in asking a young child “comprehension” questions to see if she’s paying attention. You’ll know by the wiggles.

Don’t let a slightly older brother or sister take over reading. Sibling rivalry is such that a child who is four or five years older can take on quasi-adult responsibilities like nightly reading without much danger of claiming the territory for herself. But don’t let your seven-year-old son start showing off his reading skills while your five-year-old daughter is still struggling with her first steps in reading. That’s a recipe for disaster. When you and your kindergarten child read together, chances are good that your child will do “pretend” reading long before she can actually decode words. Children who have been read to by parents frequently like to turn the pages of a book and tell the story themselves using the same vocal tones and language that you do. According to one authority on early reading, there are a number of stages in this storybook retelling. Often it begins when your child simply describes the pictures on each page. Later, she may create a story based on the pictures in the book or on some remembered bits of the actual story. The third stage, a real crossover to decoding, is one where your child will create a story that is influenced by words and phrases from the actual text. The fifth stage is when your child begins struggling much more with the words on the page, remembering some, figuring others out from visual clues, sounding out some, guessing at others. Much parental anxiety comes from the fourth stage-the one I skipped up above. In this stage, your child may suddenly refuse to try to read at all. No explanation. No excuses. Just no reading. This stage rarely lasts for more than a few weeks, and it happens for a very good reason. Suddenly your child realizes that the story is all there, on the pages, and that she can’t read it all, or read it very well. The frustration causes many children to simply stop reading: “No, you read it, Mommy.” And you should. As your child’s confidence grows, she’ll tackle reading again. The read-it-again phenomenon is also a key feature of reading together with four- and five-year-olds. While you’ll likely get bored reading the same handful of books night after night, your child loves the predictability of these favorite books. These are the books she’ll memorize. And these are likely the first books she’ll “read” all by herself.

© 1993, 2000 by Paul Kropp
First published by Random House of Canada in 1993 under the title The Reading Solution

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